Stellar YA author Justine Larbalestier was inspired to write Razorhurst after moving to the inner Sydney suburb of Surry Hills and learning about its dark and violent past. A haunt of gangsters, brothels, sly grog shops, standover men and all manner of criminality, the narrow streets of 'Sorrow Hills' and the surrounding suburbs were what you might call 'colourful' in the 1920s and 30s, though these days they are so thoroughly gentrified that few traces of their seedy past remain.

In Larbalestier's reimagining, it's not only the living who teem through the streets of Razorhurst (as the tabloid papers dubbed the area, after nearby Darlinghurst), but thousands of ghosts as well -- some faded and forgetful, some almost as vivid as the living. Not everyone can see them, but Kelpie and Dymphna can. When Kelpie, a naive street kid who has been protected by ghosts all her life, meets Dymphna, a sophisticated young woman who is Gloriana Nelson's 'best girl,' over the freshly murdered body of Dymphna's boyfriend Jimmy, she doesn't realise how much they have in common. For a start, both of them are facing the most perilous day of their lives...

I borrowed this from the library for the Convent book group, as part of our Setting theme for next month, but I'd been keen to read it ever since it came out. While I can't claim to know this area of Sydney well at all, I had a friend who lived in Palmer St, where Tilly Devine (one of the models for Gloriana Nelson) had her real-life headquarters, so I could imagine at least some of the streetscape. I also read Poor Man's Orange by Ruth Park for school, set in those same Surry Hills streets. Historical fiction meets ghostly fantasy -- I'm sold.

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